Inaugural Suggestions

Professor M.L. Sondhi

Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

The dramatic political events during 1977 have created an expectation of major macro-structural changes which could lay the groundwork of a humane and egalitarian society. The rededication of the Indian nation to democratic forms and methods cannot by itself lead to new social formations unless passivity and ambiguity about existing contradictions and malign conflicts in Indian society are removed through courageous development of social thought. It would not be wrong to assert that the electoral choice has necessarily been “negative” in nature. Demands for change made by the Indian public can only be translated if “new” principles are infused into the conduct of public life. The provision of new guidelines for attaining popular objectives can only come about through a revitalisation of the intellectual role in national life.

My chief objective in making this introductory statement is to draw attention to some theoretical aspect which has been elaborated by scholars working on Peace and Conflict Theories. Peace Research has a limited validity and usefulness and many of its results are commonplace, but I think it would be fair to claim that it has taken the lead in outlining suggestions for overcoming the barriers which divide social scientists. This seminar on the Concept of the Entrepreneur organised by a Department of Philosophy is in full conformity with the necessities of bridge-building between different academic disciplines for advancing ideas for progressive social change. A narrow minded or dogmatic approach turns an academic into a protagonist of conservative interests. At this crucial moment when moral and political attitudes are undergoing transformation in India and are the focus of world attention, the Philosopher can adapt modes of social thought to prevent distortion of judgements in polemical confrontations. The probing of the practical problems of entrepreneurial activity can be related in a philosophical environment to underlying values and assumptions guiding the humane commitments of Indian civilisation.

A Peace Theory applied to The Concept of the Entrepreneur would seek to achieve several purposes.

First, it would endeavour to provide an enquiry into the “real costs” of entrepreneurial activity. There is difficulty with all generalisations but if we have to weigh in the balance entrepreneurial activity it must be related to the creative development of the social system. The question: What constitutes social cost? is basic to any scientific discussion.

A second purpose, which merits attention, is the dimension of “power and responsibility”. Much of the resistance to change in India comes from those who adhere to immature ideas about complex social problems which arise from the divorce of power and responsibility.

A third purpose should be to expose the weakness of arguments which blame “individuals” but do not comprehend the harmful results of modes of thought and categories which retard social innovation.

A fourth purpose and perhaps the most important one would be to avoid simplistic theories which undermine faith in human intelligence. In a letter to me, Professor Eugen Loebl author of Humanomics speaks of a way of promoting new scientific thinking in Economics which I would crave the indulgence of this Seminar to quote:

“In my opinion, economy is a system of thinking human beings and not a system governed by laws, as both Marxists and non-Marxist economists assume. Consequently, we must run the economy or formulate economic theories fully respecting the cultural continuum. I would very much object to certain recommendations (derived from Western type economy) being simply applied to India. That would be a catastrophe”.

I am sanguine that this seminar held in the city of Poona renowned in our country for its sober and dedicated scholars will approach the subject of enquiry without routine polemics and will thereby set an example to the academic communities in other parts of India to discharge their social responsibility of helping the erosion of vested interests and privileges through creative social thinking.

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